President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Friday, released on Monday, mandating new federal buildings be constructed using classical architecture absent “exceptional factors” necessitating a different style.
“New Federal building designs should, like America’s beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of the region,” the directive from the White House states.
“New Federal building designs should, like America's beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of a region.”
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) December 21, 2020
The order highlights the cultural heritage of architectural structures modeled after ancient civilizations in Greece and Rome, whose influence can be seen throughout the rest of Western history and invokes their adoption by the nation’s founders in the most famous buildings in the nation’s capital.
“President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson consciously modeled the most important buildings in Washington, D.C., on the classical architecture of ancient Athens and Rome,” the order reads. “They sought to use classical architecture to visually connect our contemporary Republic with the antecedents of democracy in classical antiquity, reminding citizens not only of their rights but also their responsibilities in maintaining and perpetuating its institutions.”
An effort to “modernize” construction of federal buildings was put in motion throughout the 20th century, leading to the creation of awkwardly designed buildings in the heart of D.C. far detached from the style employed by the founders resurrecting the creations from the world’s first democracies 2,000 years ago.
In October, a Harris Poll commissioned by the National Civic Art Society found 72 percent of Americans preferred traditional architecture for U.S. courthouses and federal office buildings.
Trump’s order also establishes the “President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture,” chaired by the Commission of Fine Arts, to guide implementation of the president’s directive. The council will be dismissed on Sept. 30, 2021, unless extended by the president.
Author: Tristan Justice